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Polished EntertainmentOct. 13 2009
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I might as well address the main problem that most readers will have with Robert F. Young's _A Glass of Stars_ (1968): It is outrageously expensive. It never appeared in paperback, and hardback editions are priced anywhere from six hundred to well over a thousand dollars. But perhaps you will be able to find this tome in Your Friendly Neighborhood Library.
Robert F. Young's strengths and weaknesses may be quickly summarized. His stories are polished, smooth, slick, reasonably entertaining, and shallow. They are freqently sentimental boy-meets-girl romances or mild satires. When Young is in a satirical mode, his targets are fairly broad and obvious: the American obsession with automobiles, environmental despoilers, puritanical religious fanatics, and military warmongers.
Many of Young's stories contain scenes in which the hero has a revelation that the pretty heroine is truly beautiful: "It dawned on him all of a sudden that in a way he had never quite figured on she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen" (110-111)... "When next D'Arcy looked at Jeanne Marie, he saw a beautiful woman instead of a pretty girl" (32)... "He would have fallen in love with her long ago if love had not been beyond him. It was beyond him no longer" (162). These scenes may be multiplied.
Perhaps the best-known story in this collection is "Little Dog Gone" (_Worlds of Tomorrow_, 1964). As the title implies, it is a sentimental dog story featuring a charming alien creature. It was nominated for a Hugo (and was beaten fair and square by Gorden R. Dickson's "Soldier, Ask Not"). It's a good story, but Young wrote better pieces-- some of them in this collection.
My two favorite stories in _A Glass of Stars_ are "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" (as "Redemption" in _Amazing_, 1963) and "L'Arc de Jeanne" (_F&SF_, 1966). The first is a story about a hate that turns to love after a lot of twisting through space and time. The second is a romance set against a very unusual planetary war. Both stories deserve much more attention than they have heretofore received.
"To Fell a Tree" (_F&SF, 1959) has a similar plot to "Goddess in Granite," ( _F&SF_, 1957; collected elsewhere). Both stories involve a man-against-nature conflict with mythical overtones. In this story, a climber assaults a giant tree, battling its dyrad spirit every foot of the way. The consequences could have been predicted at the outset. But this may be Young's point: A real-estate mentality driven by greed is blind to consequences.
Young was frequently concerned with retelling fairy tales, myths, and religious stories. Often, these reworkings were obvious and predictable, but not always. "The Pyramid Project" (as "The Sphinx," _Amazing_, 1964) is an ingenious reworking of Egyptian mythology. The main problem is that most of the plot resolutions are told to us rather than dramatized.
Most of the other stories are more routine. "Boy Meets Dyevitza" (_Amazing_, 1962) is _Ninotchka_ set on Venus. It is a pleasant romance that is unfortunately attached to a preposterous plot. "The Grown-Up People's Feet" (_Fantastic Universe_, 1955) and "Wish Upon a Star" (_Fantastic Universe_, 1956) are refreshingly downbeat, but they are nonetheless minor vignettes. "On the River" (_Fantastic_, 1965) is a surrealistic experiment that doesn't quite come off.
Whether or not you will enjoy Robert F. Young will depend in part upon who you are. If you are snobbish in your tastes, if you demand literary excellence in all that you read, you probably won't enjoy him. But if you have a certain affection for light entertainment, you may. As for myself, I rather enjoy Young. I wish that more of his stories were reprinted.